A New Approach for Detecting Planets in the Alpha Centauri System

Planet detectability in the nearby Alpha Centauri star system.

Scientists Discovered a New Approach for Detecting Planets in the Alpha Centauri System
(Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein)

Yale astronomers have taken a fresh look at the close-by Alpha Centauri system and discovered better approaches to limit the look for livable planets there.

The Alpha Centauri system is found 1.3 parsecs (24.9 trillion miles) from Earth, making it our nearest neighboring framework. It has three stars: Centauri A, Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri. A year ago, the disclosure of an Earth-like planet circling Proxima Centauri set off another flood of logical and open enthusiasm for the system.

This latest study suggests that there may be small, Earth-like planets in Alpha Centauri that have been overlooked. Means, the study ruled out the existence of a number of larger planets in the system that had popped up in previous models.

Professor Debra Fischer said, “The universe has told us the most common types of planets are small planets, and our study shows these are exactly the ones that are most likely to be orbiting Alpha Centauri A and B.”

“As Alpha Centauri is so close, it is our first stop outside our solar system. There’s almost certain to be small, rocky planets around Alpha Centauri A and B.”

The study although, relies on information rolling in from another rush of further developed spectrographic instruments at observatories located in Chile: CHIRON, a spectrograph built by Fischer’s team; HARPS, built by a team from Geneva; and UVES, part of the Very Large Telescope Array.

To obtain the data, set up a lattice system for the Alpha Centauri System and asked, in view of the spectrographic investigation, “If there was a little, rough planet in the livable zone, would we have possessed the capacity to identify it?” Often, the appropriate response returned: “No.”

Scientists then determined that for Alpha Centauri A, if there might still be orbiting planets that are smaller than 50 Earth masses. For Alpha Centauri B there may be revolving planets that are smaller than 8 Earth masses; for Proxima Centauri, there may be orbiting planets that are less than half of the Earth’s mass.

Lily Zhao, study’s first author said, “The study eliminated the possibility of a number of larger planets. This takes away the possibility of Jupiter-sized planets causing asteroids that might hit or change the orbits of smaller, Earth-like planets.”

“This is an exceptionally green study in that it reuses existing information to make new inferences. By utilizing the information in an unexpected way, we can decide out substantial planets that could imperil little, tenable universes and limit the look zone for future examinations.”

Scientists believe that the study could help astronomers organize their endeavors to identify extra planets in the system. Moreover, it could help them to identify and understand the composition of exoplanets.

The new study appears in the Astronomical Journal. Co-authors are John Brewer and Matt Giguere of Yale and Bárbara Rojas-Ayala of Universidad Andrés Bello in Chile.